Climate change will create a situation where workers will be more exposed to heatwaves, extreme weather, storms and bushfire. As well as pollen storms, increased UV, and communicable vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. In September 2016, above-average rainfall occurred in Australia. This rainfall anomaly led to widespread flooding across large parts of Victoria, particularly in our region. Victoria experienced a large outbreak Ross River Virus between October 2016 and April 2017. 1,974 human cases were reported, which was nearly 10 times greater than the historical mean of 204 cases per year.
Hotter summers may impact the thermal comfort and productivity of employees in offices and those that work outdoors. If not managed, employees with underlying health conditions could be at risk. During the 2009 heatwave, we saw a 25% increase in total emergency cases and a 46% increase over the three hottest days. For Emergency departments, a 12% overall increase in presentations, 8-fold increase in direct heat-related illnesses and a 3-fold increase in patients dead on arrival. These events also impact many of the 20,000 plus health workers in our region who respond to help their community.
Employers need to think about climate change impacts on their workforce directly or indirectly through increased demands for services.